Why I Travel

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For years I have been asked in many different ways by many different people the following question: “Why do you Travel so much?” This question always takes me down memory lane a bit, and there is by no means a quick answer.

I would not say that I was born to travel, but instead learned to love traveling. My family took some vacations in the United States when I was growing up, but we did not travel much. I think we were all too busy with work, school, activities, friends, etc. My grandmother and grandfather were the only ones in my family that traveled outside of the United States, that I was aware of. I would spend many hours with my grandmother’s photo albums looking at all her adventures including pictures of my grandfather with a snake wrapped around him in Morocco, my grandmother riding a camel in the Sahara, tulips in bloom in Holland, the sandy beaches of the Cayman Islands, the white Cliffs of Moher and Passion week in Oberammergau. I always thought I would love to see those places and have those experiences.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen years old that I got my first opportunity to travel abroad. With my parents’ support and some money from my after-school job, I traveled with my high school German class to Europe. While that was quite a while ago now, I will never forget my first wine tasting on the Rhine River, the snowball fight in the Alps in July, the dancing with giant mugs of beer at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, singing “I am Sixteen going on Seventeen” at the Von Trapp house in Salzburg, and renting a speedboat on Lake Lugano (which we did without our chaperones’ knowledge, but it was so worth the punishment we endured afterwards).

While that was a memorable trip, and I was very fortunate to have that experience, my true passion for traveling began in college. My junior year, I spent spring break in London with my college’s theater group. I was not part of the theater group, but I had friends who invited me. I got my first acting course on the stage of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, saw the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, visited one of the most famous addresses in the world (221b Baker Street), saw countless broadway and off broadway shows, and salsa danced with a DJ at a local club. From that moment on I knew that I would never turn down the opportunity to explore more of the world, and I signed up for a study abroad semester the next year.

My semester abroad took me to Belgrade, Serbia, which was at that time still recovering from the Balkan War of the 90s. This was a very different travel experience than what I had been accustomed to before, and it changed my life forever. Traveling was no longer just about visiting museums and other sights, but it was about the people and the different cultures. That was when traveling and exploring the world went from being a fun hobby to being part of who I am. I developed a new found respect for the world and the people of the world.

I signed up for another study abroad course in graduate school that led to more international travel. Then, in 2007, I met the person who would become my husband and permanent travel companion. We have together traveled through 4 continents and visited more than 25 countries.

So over the course of the last two decades, I have developed a passion for travel. I love the adventure, exploring the world, educating myself, and most importantly learning about myself. Through each travel experience I have discovered what kind of person I am, what my interests are, and how to overcome my own personal barriers. I hope that I never stop learning and growing – and that is why I travel.

Arrivederci 2014-Benvenuto 2015

Buon Anno!

This holiday season I decided to follow in my mother-in-law’s footsteps by not coming out with a Christmas message until after Christmas. She said that people don’t have a lot of time before Christmas to sit and read letters anyway, and I agree if for no other reason than the fact that I have been too busy to write my letter.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to spend the holidays in the United States with friends and family. It has been our first trip back since we moved to Italy a year and a half ago, and we have been having a wonderful time. Being back makes us realize some of the things that we have missed since moving to Italy. We have been eating lots of Mexican food, and I have definitely been taking advantage of the fact that I can wash and dry a whole load of laundry in less than two hours. We both also drove cars for the first time in a year and a half. Overall, we are just enjoying spending time with our parents, siblings, niece and nephew. We have had so much fun talking and laughing with family that I have lost my voice.

Soon we will be returning back to our home in Italy. It has been an interesting year living in Italy. It is a simpler lifestyle. The main focuses are family and food not work like in the United States. It is a slower lifestyle where you do actually take time to smell the flowers (and the pastries). Lucca is a walled city that has converted their ancient walls into a park that you can walk on. Sometimes I would walk on the walls and think to myself that no place is more amazing than Lucca. We feel so blessed to have this amazing opportunity living in Italy no matter what struggles we have been faced with.

My husband continues to amaze me. He has embraced living in Italy so much that it almost seems like he was always meant to live there. He speaks and understands Italian far better than I do and has also started dressing more like an Italian. He continues to create new masterpieces in the kitchen which recently included making pasta from scratch. We hosted Thanksgiving for the second year in Lucca, and the turkey came out even better than last year. My husband spent the whole day cooking the turkey and his toil was to our benefit as it was the best turkey I had ever had.

My husband continues to work full time at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca. He has spent the last year continuing work on using complex network methods to understand innovation networks, with about ten people at his institute working with him on linking the patent data he’s worked with to other databases they have access to.  He has about five papers that are partially completed on a wide range of topics right now including geolocation (putting millions of pins on a map based on patent addresses), disambiguation (determining that “MIT” and “Mass. Inst. of Tech.” refer to the same institution), predicting collaboration between scientific authors, detecting structure in correlation networks, and understanding citations within or between firms.  This year has been very productive, and the fruit of all that labor will be seen in multiple publications next year!

While my husband is at work, I have been working from home on a project with a professor from Northeastern University. He is writing an Introduction to Network Science textbook. The online version is available here. The hard copy may or may not be coming out in 2015. It has been an enjoyable project.

At the beginning of 2014, I found a English book club in Lucca. Everyone that knows me knows that I love reading. When I lived in Washington, DC and then in Boston, I enjoyed participating in book clubs. I love having people to discuss books with. I find that I appreciate books more when I can discuss them and be faced with different viewpoints. The book club in Lucca has also helped me meet a few ex-pats that I can spend time with and share experiences beyond books .

We have enjoyed the company of many friends throughout 2014. We have shared Lucca, wine, and our home and loved every minute of it. We find that we explore more of our beautiful town and country when we have visitors. In 2014, we watched fireworks in Pisa for New Years, stood among a million people from all over the world in Rome for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, wore masks through the streets of Venice for Carnivale, threw confetti for Carnivale in Viareggio, ate our way through Bologna, watched fishies at the aquarium in Genova, listened to the bells of the Duomo di Siena, relaxed along the waters of Cinque Terre, ate the worlds best gelato in San Gimignano, visited Saint Francis in Assisi, listened to multiple Puccini concerts in Lucca, and explored the surrounding areas of Lucca. Even with all of these adventures there is still much more of Italy to see. We look forward to seeing a bit more in 2015.

Other than exploring Italy, my husband and I had a few wonderful adventures outside of Italy as well. In January, we visited friends in Berlin, where we wore our heavy winter coats for the only time that season. In the summer, we joined my husband’s family for our annual trip that included a weekend in Istanbul, Turkey followed by a safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania to view the wildebeest migration. At the end of the summer, we visited friends in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. In October, we traveled to the beaches of Normandy in France. I will continue to write more about all of these individual travel adventures on our Travel Page. As we continue to check off items on our travel bucket list, we also continue to add items. We have definitely learned this year that there is more to see and do in the world than we had ever imagined previously. We hope that 2015 will bring just as many travel adventures as 2014 did.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful 2014! May you all be blessed with love and joy throughout 2015!

MALTA (September 2013)

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Three days in Malta was not enough! Since we were unfamiliar with the islands and all their splendor, we thought the best way to travel around the first day was using one of the Hop-On Hop-Off tour buses. This tour would include a cruise around the main island as well. Unfortunately, we had a horrible experience with this form of tour, so I do not recommend this. You are better off traveling around on your own or finding a different company. The attendants that worked for this company were rude and the audio system on the bus that is suppose to give us information about each place we are seeing wasn’t turned on half the time and wasn’t working well the rest of the time.

We did get off the bus to explore Mosta Dome ourselves. It is the 4th largest dome in the world and has become infamous. During World War II, a German bomb was dropped through the dome where hundreds of people were worshipping. By some miracle, the bomb did not explode.

After traveling around Malta for a few hours, we had a brief lunch and decided to hop on the cruise right away. The cruise was far superior to the bus experience. A guide talked the entire time about Malta and different sights we were seeing.

I was surprised by the nightlife on Malta. If I was younger, I would say that it is the perfect place to go for spring break. There are bars, clubs, and beaches.

Next visit, I will definitely explore more of the island of Gozo.

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PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (August 2013)

Here are the highlights of our amazing adventure in Prague in the chronical order:

  1. Letna Park: Beautiful views as it overlooks the city.
  2. Prague Castle: We did the English tour provided by the tourist information at the Castle. We spent a good deal of time in the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Palace, and St. George’s Basilica.

    Beautiful Clear view of the Prague Castle from the Vltava River

    Beautiful Clear view of the Prague Castle from the Vltava River Beautiful Clear view of the Prague Castle from the Vltava River

  3. WWII & Communist History of Prague Walking Tour: This was an amazing walking tour we booked through a company called Viator. We ended up getting a private tour. Our tour guide was an older man who out-walked us by miles and miles. He took us all over Prague on foot. We saw Wenceslas Square, the Atomic Clock, the Jewish Quarter, and ended on the Charles Bridge. Our tour guide was full of so much information and even found a connection between Lucca, Italy (our hometown) and Prague.

    View of Prague from Charles Bridge

    View of Prague from Charles Bridge View of Prague from Charles Bridge

  4. Pilsner Urquell Brewery: We took a break from the city to travel to the small town of Pilsen, Czech Republic to have the full experience of the older pilsner in the world.

We had plenty of time to just explore on our own where we found interesting gems like the following picture displays and drink lots of fabulous beer!

Locks of Love